NEW SHARON — When her boys, Toby and Travis, leave for Afghanistan on Sunday, Wendy Pond plans to do what she did the last time.
She’ll write. She’ll post. And she’ll pray.
“I have to support what they’re doing,” she said. “And I’ve been through it all before.”
Toby and Travis Pond, staff sergeants with the Maine Army National Guard’s 1136th Transportation Company, deployed for a year in Kuwait in 2003. They expect to spend the remainder of 2010 in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Knowing they’ll be together comforts Wendy Pond.
“I don’t know if it can be explained,” she said. Maybe they will protect each other, or maybe they will help each other carry some of the war’s heaviest burdens.
“It’s very, very stressful,” the mother said.
Yet, days before their departure, the brothers seemed lighthearted, kicking off their shoes and playing on the living room floor of Toby’s New Sharon home with his wide-eyed, 1-year-old son, Asher.
“This time it’s totally different,” said Toby, who turned 29 on Wednesday. He’s a father and a husband. His wife, Holly, is due in October with their second child.
Toby and Travis are a long way from the young guys who enlisted together for the Guard nine years ago, shipping out side by side for basic training.
Toby was 20, and Travis was 17. As they were given their first uniforms and learned their first marches, they hid the fact that they were brothers from their fellow soldiers.
“We got away with it for a while,” Travis said. Then, a sleuth in the company managed to put together the background of the two men with the same last names who looked vaguely alike.
A drill sergeant seemed to take pleasure in hazing the pair, who leaned on each other as they always had.
Their whole family is close. They all have houses on the same, bumpy backwoods road. Dinners at each others’ homes are common. They talk daily, Travis said.
The brothers are particularly close.
“They’re like two peas in a pod,” Wendy Pond said.
When they served together in Kuwait, they managed to see each other now and then. They hope the same will be true in Afghanistan.
“It’s unknown exactly what our mission is going to be,” Travis said. They’ll have to stay flexible.
Will it help them to be together? Yup.
Like their mother, they have trouble putting it into words.
“You almost think about it subconsciously,” Travis said.
“It’s like a calming thing,” Toby said.